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Bengali cuisine is a culinary style originating in Bengal region in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, which is now divided between Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam's Barak Valley. With an emphasis on fish, vegetables and lentils are served with rice as a staple diet.
Bengali cuisine is known for its varied use of flavours, as well as the spread of its confectioneries and desserts. It has the only traditionally developed multi-course tradition from the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent that is analogous in structure to the modern service à la russe style of French cuisine, with food served in courses rather than all at once.
Annaprashana, or "grain initiation", is a samskara- or right of passage- in which a baby consumes its first solid meal, which consists of some form of rice- usually payesh, as it is easiest to swallow. In Bengali, it can be referred to as "Mukhe Baat" (মুখে ভাত), which literally translates to "rice in mouth". Families are expected to use silver or bronze dishes and cutlery, and dress their children in traditional attire that depends on their gender.
After the initial payesh, children are given a few drops of ghee, shukto, torkari, a variety of bhaja, daal, chutney, and a fish's head and tail. Nowadays, some parents forgo the additional food items and just stick to the payesh, as certain foods may not be good for the child's digestive system yet.
The partition of Bengal and IndiaEdit
The large-scale displacement along religious lines as a result of the partition led to changes in meal-taking, as to adhere to religious restrictions. In Bangladesh, Mughlai food is common, and includes foods that are taboo in West Bengal, such as beef kebab. Additionally, more traditionally Islamic sweets such as zarda and firni-payesh are taken. In rural Bangladesh, many people eat makna fried, popped, or raw. As a whole, Bangladesh's cuisine mainly remained traditional due to its geopolitical isolation.
In West Bengal, the only restriction is beef, which applies only to Hindus, but due to recent laws also affect Muslim communities. Access to Western food is higher in the West than the East, and shortages of foodstuffs like milk and meat are non-existent. During the colonial period, many Western food shops were established in Kolkata, making puff pastries, channa, chocolate, and chips especially popular. Dishes such as chop, gravy cutlet, sponge rasogolla, and ledikeni. As a result of a more multi-cultural community than Bangladesh, West Bengal's cuisine continuously changes, and takes heavy influence from Chinese and Marwari palates.
Influence of widowsEdit
Hindu widows were not allowed to leave the house, so their contribution to the household was usually restricted to the kitchen, creating a unique class of chefs in the Hindu community. While most Bengali castes ate meat and fish, this was barred for widows. Widows also could not use "heating" foods such as shallot and garlic, but ginger was allowed. This style found a core place in Bengali curries in general, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Expensive spices such as saffron, cinnamon or cloves were used very sparingly, if at all; nuts, dry fruits, milk and milk products (such as cream, ghee or curd) were similarly scarce. As a result of all of these economic and social restrictions, Bengali widows created a brand new set of meals that utilized only vegetables and cheap spices.
Characteristics of Bengali cuisineEdit
Bengali cuisine can be subdivided into four different types of dishes, charbya (চারব্য), or food that is chewed, such as rice or fish; choṣya, or food that is sucked, such as ambal and tak; lehya (লেহ্য), or foods that are meant to be licked, like chutney; and peya (পেয়ে), which includes drinks, mainly milk.
Special dishes of DhakaEdit
The Nawabs of Dhaka had brought Mughlai cuisine to Bengal, and with it, many Islamic elements that were wholly retained by Bangladesh's culinary community. Due to the high costs of producing Mughlai food, the recipes were limited to the elite classes in colonial India, and slowly expanded as Bangladesh's economy grew. The main focus on lamb, mutton, beef, yoghurt, and mild spices define the taste of the style. Such dishes as kebab; stuffed breads; kachi biriyani; roast lamb, duck, and chicken; patisapta; Kashmiri tea; and korma are still served at special occasions like Eid and weddings. Due to the high class of the food, using an excess amount of expensive ingredients like ghee, and making the food melt in one's mouth were essential to the feel of the food.
Specialities of Kolkata and suburbsEdit
In Kolkata, many local street vendors own small shops from which they sell their own homemade goods. Items like cheeses (paneer) can be eaten as is, or can be made into sweet sandesh, rosogolla, or chanar payesh. Milk is especially used in Kolkata's various types of payesh, differing in use of different grains and additives like dates, figs, and berries. In addition to European foodstuffs like chocolate, Kolkata takes culinary influence from its Chinese diaspora. Puchka, also known as panipuri, is a common kind of Bengali street food made with a fried dough casing and a potato and chickpea filling, usually found alongside paan and masala chai.
Specialities of ChittagongEdit
Ziafat or Mezban feasts are popular throughout the area, where characteristic "heavy" dishes—dishes rich in animal fat and dairy—are featured. Saltwater fish and seafood are quite prevalent in these areas. Shutki is more available in this region than in other parts of the country. Bangladesh's Southern region is also popular worldwide for its fisheries industries with over 100 types of fishes exported every day from this region.
Instruments and utensilsEdit
Another characteristic of Bengali food is the use of a cutting instrument, the boti (also called the dao in some regional dialects). It is a long curved blade on a platform held down by foot; both hands are used to hold whatever is being cut and move it against the blade, which faces the user. The method gives effective control over the cutting process, and can be used to cut anything from tiny shrimp to large pumpkins.
A korai (wok) is a universal cooking vessel for most Bengali food, for making sauces, frying/stir-frying, etc. The dekchi (a flat-bottomed pan) is used generally for larger amounts of cooking or for making rice. The dekchi comes with a thin flat lid which is used also to strain out the starch while finishing up cooking rice. The other prominent cooking utensil is a hari, which is a round-bottomed pot-like vessel. The three mentioned vessels all come in various sizes and in various metals and alloys. The tawa is used to make roti and porota.
Silverware is not a part of traditional Bengali cookery. A flat metal spatula, khunti, is used often, along with hata (scoop with a long handle), jhanjri (round-shaped sieve-like spatula to deep-fry food), the shanrashi (pincers to remove vessels from the fire), the ghuntni (wooden hand blender) for puréeing dal, the old wooden belun chaki (round pastry board and rolling pin), and the shil nora, which is a rough form of a mortar and pestle or grinding stone. The kuruni is a unitasker, there to grate coconuts.
Preparation and cuttingEdit
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Bengali cuisine is rather particular in the way vegetables and meat (or fish) are prepared before cooking. Some vegetables are used unpeeled, in some preparations fish is used unskinned in contrast as well. However, in most dishes vegetables are peeled, and fish scaled and skinned.
In many cases, the main ingredients are lightly marinated with salt and turmeric (an anti-bacterial and antiseptic). Vegetables are to be cut in different ways for different preparations. Dicing, julienne, strips, scoops, slices, shreds are common and one type of cut vegetables cannot replace another style of cutting for a particular preparation. Any aberration is frowned upon. For example, in alu-kumror chhakka, the potatoes and gourds must be diced, not shredded; if they are shredded it is called ghonto and not chhakka.
One of the spices which is widely used in most of the veg preparation in Bengali food is called Panch phoron (literally means five spices). The five spices which make paanch phoron are Cumin seeds, fenugreek, Mustard seeds (black), Nigella seeds, and fennel seeds.This spice is used for tempering in many vegetable dishes along with whole red chillies. The spice gives a distinct flavour. Some people also prefer to light roast the spice and ground it for chutneys.
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Bengali cuisine has evolved with the influence of Mughal cuisine, Anglo-Indian cuisine, and Chinese cuisine among others. Some geographical overlap allowed this to occur, such as the great number of rivers and their tributaries providing freshwater fish and flat and fertile land producing abundance of rice and pulse (lentil). As for the flora and fauna involved, domestic cattle and dairy farming provide milk, beef, (for non-Hindus) and mutton; and alluvial soil produces variety of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, use of different spices has added to the flavour and taste of Bengali food. Ceremonial food differs from daily food. While daily food consists mainly of rice, roti (a handmade flatbread), fish, lentil (dal), meat, vegetables etc., in different occasions and festivals, guests are entertained with different kind of pilau or biryani, chicken korma, beef kalia, kebab, borhani, firni, jorda or different sweet dishes etc. A significant feature of the cuisine is a significant variety of sweets based on milk and sugar as part of tradition. Wheat is used alongside rice, in different types of breads, such as luchi, kochuri and pôroţa. Special cuisine are also prepared in different seasons; for example, in winter, both urban and rural areas prepare various kinds of pitha (cakes like bhapa pitha, phul pitha, telerpitha, patishapta and taler bora) and payesh/khir (a special kind of dessert made of milk, rice, sugar/gur and spices) are prepared.
Prosperity and urbanisation also led to the widespread use of professional cooks who introduced complex spice mixtures and more elaborate sauces, along with techniques, such as roasting or braising. Also introduced around this time, probably as a consequence of increased urbanisation, was a new class of snack foods. These snack foods are most often consumed with evening tea. The tea-time ritual was probably inspired by the British, but the snacks most popular are shingara, dalpuri, samosa, peyaji, beguni, phuluri, chop, muri, haleem, etc. Chotpoti is one of the most popular street foods of Bangladesh.
Bengali food today has some broad (though not so distinct) traditional variations.
Islam arrived in Bengal probably around the mid-thirteenth century, coming into force with the penetration of the Muslim rulers from the northwest. Dhaka (the present-day capital of Bangladesh), in particular, expanded greatly under Mughal rule. The partition of India in 1947 resulted in a large migration of people to and from present-day Bangladesh, resulting in a much stronger divide along religious lines. Bangladesh today shows a much greater Muslim influence than West Bengal.
The influence on the food was from the top down, and more gradual than in many other parts of India. This led to a unique cuisine where even commoners ate the dishes of the royal court, such as biryani, korma and bhuna. The influence was reinforced in the Raj era, when Kolkata became the place of refuge for many prominent exiled Nawabs, especially the family of Tipu Sultan from Mysore and Wajid Ali Shah, the ousted Nawab of Awadh. The exiles brought with them hundreds of cooks and masalchis (spice mixers), and as their royal patronage and wealth diminished, they became interspersed into the local population. These cooks came with the knowledge of a very wide range of spices (most notably jafran (saffron) and mace), the extensive use of ghee as a method of cooking, and special ways of marinating meats.
In Bangladesh, this food has over time become the staple food of the populace. In West Bengal, however, this has remained, more than the other categories, the food of professional chefs; the best examples are still available at restaurants. Specialties include chap (ribs slow cooked on a tawa), rezala (meat in a thin yogurt and cardamom gravy) and the famous kathi roll (kebabs in a wrap). The local population absorbed some of the ingredients and techniques into their daily food, resulting in meat-based varieties of many traditional vegetarian dishes, but the foods remained largely distinct.
The Mughal influence is most distinct in preparations involving meat, especially mutton. However, even chicken and other meats became more prevalent. The influence was also seen in desserts; traditional desserts were based on rice pastes and jaggery but under the Mughal influence moved towards significantly increased use of milk, cream and sugar along with expensive spices such as cardamom and saffron.
Anglo-Indian or Raj influenceEdit
Anglo-Indian food is not purely the result of the influence of the British; Bengal was once the home of a French colony, and also hosted populations of Portuguese, Dutch, and other Europeans. These collective western influences are seen in the foods created to satisfy the tastes of the western rulers. The result is a unique cuisine, local ingredients adapted to French and Italian cooking techniques—characterised by creamy sauces, the restrained use of spices, and new techniques such as baking. English and Jewish bakers such as Flury's and Nahoum's dominated the confectionery industry which migrated from British tables to everyday Bengali ones, resulting in unique creations such as the pêţis (savory turnovers, from the English "pasty"). Another enduring contribution to Bengali cuisine is pau ruţi, or Western-style bread. Raj-era cuisine lives on especially in the variety of finger foods popularised in the 'pucca' clubs of Kolkata, such as mutton chop, kabiraji cutlet or fish orly.
The British also influenced food in a somewhat different way. Many British families in India hired local cooks, and through them discovered local foods. The foods had to be toned down or modified to suit the tastes of the "memsahibs". The most distinct influence is seen in the desserts, many of which were created specifically to satisfy the British—most notably the very popular sweet leđikeni named after the first Vicereine Lady Canning; it is a derivative of the pantua created for an event hosted by her.
The Chinese of Kolkata originally settled into a village called Achipur south of Kolkata in the late 18th century, later moving into the city and finally into its present home in Tangra at the eastern edge of Kolkata. The Chinese-origin people of Kolkata form a substantial and successful community with a distinct identity. With this identity came Chinese food, available at almost every street corner in Kolkata at present, due to the taste, quick cooking procedure, and no similarity with the original Chinese recipe other than the use of soy sauce. They were mostly Cantonese tradesmen and sailors who first settled down here and decided to cook with whatever items they had at hand.
The influence of this unique syncretic cuisine cannot be overstated; it is available in every town in India and Bangladesh as "Chinese" food. Bengali immigrants to other countries have started carrying this abroad as well; Indian Chinese restaurants have appeared in many places in the United States and UK.
Indian Chinese food was given a second boost when a large number of Tibetans migrated into Indian Territory, following the 14th Dalai Lama's flight. Tibetans brought with them their own delicacies to add to this genre, such as the very popular momo (a kind of dumpling) or thukpa (a hearty noodle soup). Tibetans and Nepali immigrants also found ready employment in kitchens and helped power the many eateries that serve this unique fusion on virtually every street in Kolkata. The chop suey became a favorite, and versions like "American chop suey" and "Chinese chop suey" were constantly talked about.
The medium of cooking is mustard oil which adds on its own pungency. Another very important item of Bengali cuisine is the variety of sweets or mishti as they call them. Most of them are milk-based and are prepared from 'chhana' (ponir as it is popularly known). The most popular among the Bengali sweets are the roshogolla, shondesh, pantua and mishti doi and these four sweets are deemed essential at every wedding besides some other sweets, which may vary as per individual choice. A meal, for the Bengali, is a ritual in itself even only boiled rice and lentils (dal bhat), with a little fish. Bengalis, like the French, spend not only the great deal of time thinking about the food, but also on its preparation and eating. Quips like "Bengalis live to eat" and "Bengalis spend most of their income on food" are not exactly exaggerated. The early morning shopping for fresh vegetables, fish etc. is the prerogative of the head of the family, even in affluent household, because he feels that he alone can pick up the best at a bargain price.
Meal Courses and EtiquetteEdit
The Bengalis are very particular about the way and the order in which the food should be served. Each dish is to be eaten separately with a little rice so that the individual flavours can be enjoyed. The first item served may be a little ghee which is poured over a small portion of rice and eaten with a pinch of salt. Then come the bitter preparation, shukto, followed by lentils or dals, together with roasted or fried vegetables (bhaja or bharta). Next come the vegetable dishes, the lightly spiced vegetables, chenchki, chokka, followed by the most heavily spiced dalna, ghonto and those cooked with fish. Finally the chicken or mutton, if this being served at all. Chaatni comes to clear the palate together with crisp savoury wafers, papor. Dessert is usually sweet yogurt (mishti doi). The meal is finally concluded with the handing out of betel leaf (paan), which is considered to be an aid to digestion and an astringent. Traditionally the people here eat seated on the floor, where individual pieces of carpet, called asans, are spread for each person to sit on and the meal is served on a large gun-metal or silver plate (thala) and the various items of food are placed in bowls (batis) around the top of the thala, running from right to left. Rice is mounded and placed on the middle of the thala, with a little salt, chilies and lime placed on the upper right hand corner. They eat with the fingers of the right hand and strict etiquette is observed with regard to this.
The typical Bengali fare includes a certain sequence of food—somewhat like the courses of Western dining. Two sequences are commonly followed, one for ceremonial dinners such as a wedding and the day-to-day sequence. Both sequences have regional variations, and sometimes there are significant differences in a particular course between West Bengal and Bangladesh.
At home, Bengalis traditionally ate without silverware: kaţa (forks), chamoch (spoons), and chhuri (knives) gradually finding use on Bengali tables in urban areas. Most Bengalis eat with their right hand, mashing small portions of meat and vegetable dishes with rice and in some cases, lentils. In rural areas, Bengalis traditionally eat, sitting on the floor with a large banana or plantain leaf serving as the plate or plates made from sal leaves sown together and dried.
Contemporary meal etiquetteEdit
The elaborate dining habits of the Bengalis were a reflection of the attention the Bengali housewife paid to the kitchen. In modern times, thanks to Western influence, this is rarely followed anymore. Courses are frequently skipped or combined with everyday meals. Meals were usually served course by course to the diners by the youngest housewives, but increasing influence of nuclear families and urbanisation has replaced this. It is now common to place everything on platters in the centre of the table, and each diner serves him/herself. Ceremonial occasions such as weddings used to have elaborate serving rituals, but professional catering and buffet-style dining is now commonplace. The traditions are far from dead, though; large family occasions and the more lavish ceremonial feasts still make sure that these rituals are observed.
The daily mealEdit
The foods of a daily meal are usually simpler, geared to balanced nutrition and makes extensive use of vegetables. The courses progress broadly from lighter to richer and heavier and goes through various tastes and taste cleansers. Rice remains common throughout the meal and is the main constituent of the meal, until the chaţni (chutney) course.
First course or starterEdit
The starting course is made from bitter vegetables or herbs, often deep fried in oil or steamed with cubed potatoes. Portions are usually tiny—a spoonful or so to be had with rice—and this course is considered to be both a palate-cleanser and of great medicinal value. The ingredients used for this course change seasonally, but commonly used ones are kôrola or uchhe (forms of bitter gourd) which are available nearly all year round, or tender neem leaves in spring.
A thick soupy mixture of vegetables in a ginger-mustard sauce called Shukto in West Bengal usually follows the bitter starting course, but sometimes replaces it as a starter altogether. Eaten in much bigger portions, Shukto is usually eaten in summer. It is a complex dish, featuring a fine balance of many different tastes and textures and is often a critical measure of a Bengali cook's abilities in the kitchen.
The first course is then followed by shak (leafy vegetables) such as spinach, palong chard, methi fenugreek, or amaranth to name a few. The shak can be steamed or cooked in oil with other vegetables such as begun (aubergine). Steamed shak is sometimes accompanied by a pungent paste of fermented mustard seeds, spices and sometimes dried mangoes, dried Indian plum and olives which is called Kashundi. Many varieties of the Shak (fried/ cooked leaves) are savored in Bengal. Methi Shak, Kormi Shak, Pui Shak, Ponka Shak, Kulekhara Shak, Sojne Shak(drum stick leaves), Hinche Shak, Neem Pata, Lau Shak, Kumro Shak, Sorshe Shak (also very common in North of India), Kochu Shak etc. are some of the varieties that are very commonly eaten in Bengali dishes. Neem Shak and Begun (Brinjal) is cooked in mustard oil (deep fried) and consumed with rice. This is a unique dish which is consumed as a normal food considering its bitter taste because of the Neem leaves.
The đal course is usually the most substantial course, especially in West Bengal. It is eaten with a generous portion of rice and a number of accompaniments. Common accompaniments to đal are aaloo bhaate (potatoes mashed with rice), and bhaja (stir fried). Bhaja literally means 'fried'; most vegetables are good candidates but begun (aubergines), kumro (pumpkins), or alu (potatoes) like French fries, or shredded and fried, uchhe, potol pointed gourd are common. Machh bhaja (fried fish) is also common, especially rui (rohu) and ilish (hilsa) fishes. Bhaja is sometimes coated in a beshon (chickpea flour) and posto (poppyseed) batter. A close cousin of bhaja is bôra or deep-fried savoury balls usually made from poshto (poppyseed) paste or coconut mince. Another variant is fried pointed gourd as potoler dorma with roe/prawn.
Another accompaniment is a vegetable preparation usually made of multiple vegetables stewed slowly together without any added water. Labra, chorchori, ghonto, or chanchra are all traditional cooking styles. There also are a host of other preparations that do not come under any of these categories and are simply called tôrkari—the word merely means 'vegetable' in Bengali. Sometimes these preparations may have spare pieces of fish such as bits of the head or gills, or spare portions of meat. A charchari is a vegetable dish that is cooked without stirring, just to the point of charring.
Pickles such as raw mangoes pickled in mustard oil and spices or sweet and tangy tamarind pickles and lemon pickle are also served with the dal course. A variety of pickles are a permanent fixture of Bengali meal.
The next course is the fish course. Generally, there is one fish course a day, because Bengalis tend to eat fish and generally derive the necessary protein intake from fish and dal. Meat was generally a once-a-week affair until the 1990s, but now with changing culture, meat is served more often in the household. Generally, the most common fish dish is the Jhol, where a thin gravy of fish is made with ginger, turmeric, chili and cumin (the basic group of spices), and fish and sometimes potato or other vegetables.
Bengalis fame in cooking fish, both dried fish called "Shutki" (more present in East Bengali households) as well as fresh fish. Prawn or shrimp is often considered to be a kind of fish, and crabs are also a favourite of the Bengalis. Apart from it, mutton and chicken feature largely in the non-vegetarian menu, while the vegetarian menu contains homemade ponir, gram flour "dhoka"(deep fried fermented gram flour dough balls).
Generally, one or two pieces of fish or meat are served during lunch, with rice, to balance out the meal.
Additional main courseEdit
Then comes the meat course. This course may be eaten occasionally for 2 reasons: the Hindu principle of ahimsa, which is observed throughout the region, and cost, as meat is very costly. The divide among the Bengalis of Bangladesh and West Bengal is most evident when it comes to the meat course. Meat is readily consumed in urban parts of Bangladesh and some consider it the meal's main course. Beef is mainly consumed in some of the feasts and banquets in major cities like Dhaka and Chittagong. Because the consumption of beef is prohibited among Bengali Hindu communities, Khashi mutton is traditionally the meat of choice in West Bengal, but murgi chicken and đim eggs are also commonly consumed. At the time of Partition, it was rare for caste Hindus to eat chicken or even eggs from hens, choosing rather duck eggs if eggs were to be consumed. Although it is debatable as to whether chicken is more popular than khashi in West Bengal today, the proliferation of poultry farms and hatcheries makes chicken the cheaper alternative.
Next comes the chutney course, which is typically tangy and sweet; the chutney is usually made of am mangoes, tomatoes, anarôsh pineapple, tetul tamarind, pepe papaya, or just a combination of fruits and dry fruits called mixed fruit chutney served in biye badi (marriage). The chutney is also the move towards the sweeter part of the meal and acts also as a palate cleanser, similar to the practice of serving sorbet in some Western cuisines.
The last item before the sweets is doi (yogurt). It is generally of two varieties, either natural flavour and taste or Mishti Doi – sweet yogurt, typically sweetened with charred sugar. This brings about a brown colour and a distinct flavour. Like the fish or sweets mishti doi is typically identified with Bengali cuisine.
In a daily meal it is likely that some of the courses might get missed, for instance, the 'Shak', the additional course, chutney, and papor. In some cases, the dessert might be missed as well. The courses overall are the same at home or at a social function (e.g. marriage feast). Rice, which is the staple across the meal gets replaced by 'luchi' or luchi stuffed with dal or mashed green peas. The replacement is a relatively recent phenomenon and has been seen in practice only from about the early 20th century.
Sweets occupy an important place in the diet of Bengalis and at their social ceremonies. It is an ancient custom among both Hindu and Muslim Bengalis to distribute sweets during festivities. The confectionery industry has flourished because of its close association with social and religious ceremonies. Competition and changing tastes have helped to create many new sweets, and today this industry has grown within the country as well as across the world.
The sweets of Bengal are generally made of sweetened cottage cheese (chhena), unlike the use of khoa (reduced solidified milk) in Northern India. Flours of different cereals and pulses are used as well. Some important sweets of Bengal are:
Made from sweetened, finely ground fresh chhena (cottage cheese), shôndesh in all its variants is among the most popular Bengali sweets. The basic shôndesh has been considerably enhanced by the many famous confectioners of Bengal, and now several hundred different varieties exist, from the simple kachagolla to the complicated abar khabo, jôlbhôra or indrani. Another variant is the kôrapak or hard mixture, which blends rice flour with the paneer to form a shell-like dough that lasts much longer.
Rossogolla, a Bengali traditional sweet, is one of the most widely consumed sweets in India. It spread to Bengal in 1868. Channa based sweets were introduced in Eastern India from about the 18th century; as the process and technology involved in synthesizing "Chhana" was introduced to the Indians by the Dutch in the 1790s. The cottage cheese "schmierkase" was also known as Dutch cheese. The earlier versions of Rossogolla lacked binding capacity of the modern avatar that is well known and highly acclaimed today. This was due to the fact that the know-how involved in synthesizing such a sweet was unknown before being experimentally developed by Nobin Chandra Das and then constantly improved and further standardized by his successors. Furthermore, one must clearly understand that the "chhana" manufactured in those days was a coarse and granular variety and had low binding capacity. It was made by citric and ascorbic acid from natural fruit extracts. This type of "chhana" cannot be worked on to compact into any regular and firm shape for the purpose of sweet-making, leave alone making Rossogolla. This is because of a documented technological issue - lactic acid (extracted from whey) used to curdle milk now was introduced to India in the late 18th century by Dutch and Portuguese colonists (along with acetic acid) - and it is this method that creates the fine, smooth modern "chhana" with high binding capacity - which is now the staple raw material for Bengali confectioners. At present, Nobin Chandra Das is referred to have invented the spongy variant of rossogolla
Laddu is a very common sweet in West Bengal and Bangladesh, as well as the rest of the subcontinent, especially during celebrations and festivities. They are usually made out of flour, ghee/butter/oil and sugar. Alternative recipes can be made of coconut shavings and jaggery, raisins, chopped nuts, oatmeal, khoa, nutmeg, cardamom, or poppy seeds, among other ingredients. The sweet dates back to the year 4 BCE, where it was used for medicinal purposes and to keep the hormones of 9-11-year-old girls' hormones "in check".
Ras malai is composed of white, cream, or yellow cloured balls of channa which are dipped and soaked in sugar and malai or cottage cheese. This dessert resembles the rasgulla greatly. Though it is not a primarily Bengali sweet and originated from other places, Ras Malai is still very popular. Comilla is famous for its Rosh malai.
Pantua is somewhat similar to the rôshogolla, except that the cottage cheese balls are fried in either ghee (clarified butter) or oil until golden or deep brown before being put in syrup. There are similar tasting, but differently shaped versions of the Pantua e.g. Langcha (cylindrical) or Ledikeni. The latter was created in honour of Countess Charlotte Canning (wife of the then Governor General to India Charles Canning) by Bhim Nag, a sweet maker in Kolkata.
Chômchôm, (চমচম) (originally from Porabari, Tangail District in Bangladesh) goes back about 150 years.Except that many variation of this Bangladeshi dish are now available. It can also be preserved longer. Granules of maoa or dried milk can also be sprinkled over it.
In both Bangladesh and West Bengal, the tradition of making different kinds of pan-fried, steamed or boiled sweets, lovingly known as pithe or the "pitha", still flourishes. These symbolise the coming of winter, and the arrival of a season where rich food can be included in the otherwise mild diet of the Bengalis. The richness lies in the creamy silkiness of the milk which is mixed often with molasses, or jaggery made of either date palm or sugarcane, and sometimes sugar. They are mostly divided into different categories based on the way they are created. Generally, rice flour goes into making the pithe.
They are usually fried or steamed; the most common forms of these cakes include bhapa piţha (steamed), pakan pitha (fried), and puli pitha (dumplings), among others. The other common pithas are chandrapuli, gokul, pati shapta, chitai piţha, aski pithe, muger puli and dudh puli.
The Pati Shapta variety is basically a thin-layered rice-flour crepes with a milk-custard creme-filling, similar to the hoppers or appams of South India, or the French crepes. In urban areas of Bangladesh and West Bengal, most houses hold Pitha-festivals sometime during the winter months. The celebration of the Piţha as a traditional sweet is the time for the Winter Harvest festival in rural Bangladesh and West Bengal. The harvest is known as 'Nobanno' – (literally 'new sustenance') and calls for not only rare luxuries celebrating food and sweets but also other popular and festive cultural activities like Public Dramas at night and Open Air Dance Performances.
Muŗi (puffed rice) is made by heating sand in a pot, and then throwing in grains of rice. The rice may have been washed i brine to provide seasoning. The rice puffs up and is separated from the sand by a strainer. Muŗi is very popular and is used in a wide variety of secular and religious occasions, or even just consumed plain. Muri is also often used as a replacement for or in combination with regular rice.
A variant of muŗi is khoi, which is popped rice. Both varieties are used to make many different snack foods.
One of the most popular and iconic snack foods of Bengal, jhal literally means 'hot' or 'spicy'. Jhal-muŗi is puffed rice with spices, vegetables and raw mustard oil. Depending on what is added, there are many kinds of jhal-muŗi but the most common is a bhôrta made of chopped shallot, jira roasted ground cumin, bitnoon black salt lôngka / morich chilis (either kacha 'ripe' or shukna 'dried'), mustard oil, dhone pata (fresh coriander leaves)
A moa is made by taking muri with gur (jaggery) as a binder and forming it into a ball, made all over Bengal. Another popular kind of moa is Jaynagarer Moa, a moa particularly made in Jaynagar, which uses kanakchur khoi and nolen gur as binder. Nolen gur is fresh jaggery made from the sap of date palm. Moas are made specially during winter.
Chir̦e Bhaja is made up of Flattened rice fried in sand and then strained in metal strainers, not tea strainer. It is mostly consumed with fried peanuts, jhuri-bhaja and fried curry leaves.
Though the culture of having several types of Rolls are not authentic Bengali cuisine but it has a partial Awadhi touch made in Bengali style. Usually common within office goers and students. Predominantly nonveg, it is prepared by lacha paratha wrapped with egg or stuffed with chicken, chicken tikka, mutton keema and so on, sometimes with paneer and onion on demand.
Kochuri has its advent from the time immemorial. It is pulses stuffed in puri or luchi and paired with alur dam or cholar dal.
Also known as Golgappa within North India, Kolkata Phuchka has its own flavour and taste. It is a very good appetizer where each small golgappa is stuffed with potato smash and tamarind. Usage of 'Bhaja Masala' or Fried spices powder and chilli makes it goes mouth watering.
Chotpoti is a very popular snack food item in Bengal. It is mainly cooked whole yellow peas with various spices, and dressed with smashed fuchka, boiled egg, green chilies etc. It is serve with tamarind juice (tetuler tok).
It is snacks created with potato and flour. This triangular shaped dish is made by making a cone using flour and pouring the cooked potato in it and after that, it is cooked in hot oil.
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